Sports briefs 5/7/05

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Baseball

* Cleveland Indians minor leaguer Darnell McDonald was suspended for 15 games Friday for violating baseball's minor league steroids policy, raising the total this year to 48 minor leaguers.

McDonald signed a minor league contract with Cleveland this offseason. During 16 games with Triple-A Buffalo, McDonald did not hit a home run in 44 at-bats and batted .250 with a .341 slugging percentage.

College

* DeAndre Thomas -- a 6-foot-8, 270-pound center considered among Chicago's top recruits -- has signed a letter of intent to play at Missouri next fall, the school announced Friday.

Thomas had orally committed last month to play for the Tigers, picking Missouri over Big 12 rival Kansas and the Big Ten's Illinois.

Thomas averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds for Westinghouse High and was considered the best unsigned senior big man available. He was the Illinois Class AA and Chicago Sun-Times player of the year.

Thomas joins fellow newcomers Leo Criswell, a 6-8 forward formerly of Piper High and now at Coastal Christian Academy in Virginia Beach, Va.; guard Keaton Grant of Kissimmee, Fla.; and Matt Lawrence, a forward from St. Louis Lafayette, who is expected to walk on.

Hockey

* The NHL made a new offer to the players' association during two days of negotiations in Toronto, but no headway was made toward ending the lockout.

The sides met for 4 1/2 hours Friday on the heels of a 3 1/2-hour meeting Thursday -- the first round of talks since April 19.

"No real progress I can report on," said NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly, who declined to provide details of the proposal.

The sides are scheduled to meet again next week and the following week to try to reach a solution to end the lockout that began last September and forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.

Tennis

With the wind kicking up and shots hard to judge, Andre Agassi stuck to cautious tennis.

His strategy paid off Friday when he beat Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the Rome Masters semifinals in another step toward what he hopes will be his first title since last August.

Agassi will next meet French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria or Spain's Fernando Verdasco in this $2.7 million clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which begins May 23.

In another quarterfinal, fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain defeated 15th-seeded Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. Nadal advanced to the semis against David Ferrer, who downed Spanish countryman Alberto Martin 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.

* Maria Sharapova's bid to become the top-ranked player by winning the German Open ended Friday with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne in a cold and rainy quarterfinal.

The rain, which both players said worked to Henin-Hardenne's advantage, also led to upsets of Amelie Mauresmo and U.S. Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova. Mauresmo, seeded second, lost to Russia's Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-3, and Kuznetsova, seeded fourth, was ousted 6-2, 6-2 by seventh-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.

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